Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dispensary Employee Interview

Serenity Moon is a marijuana dispensary located on University Boulevard, directly across from DU’s new bar, Crimson & Gold. Mikah Johnson has been working at Serenity Moon for almost a year; he has an enlightening perspective regarding the alcohol tax increase/marijuana legalization issue.

“Right now there are 26 communities in Colorado that are against marijuana legalization,” said Johnson. This is largely due to culture indifferences. “In Colorado, a lot of marijuana users are interlinked with the hippie lifestyle, and in California users are interlinked with the sex/drug lifestyle. What the marijuana community is trying to accomplish is change the marijuana perception from a social and cultural image to a medicinal accommodation, similar to pharmacy drugs.”

Like all the other people I interviewed, I asked Johnson why marijuana legalization gets more attention than a alcohol tax increase when clearly alcohol is more prevalent in our society and relevant to more people. His response was different from everyone else; “you can’t compare the two,” he said. “Marijuana isn’t a ‘sin tax’ product (tax that generates revenue from health declining products) like cigarettes and alcohol because it doesn’t have the same detrimental health effects. If you tax marijuana, you have to tax it the same way you would tax pharmacy’s.” Unlike alcohol, it’s almost impossible to overdose on marijuana. “Unless you smoke two ounces in a 15 minute span, there is no chance your going to over-dose.”

I saw first hand how dispensaries were aiming for a pharmacy-like reputation when Johnson brought me past the front desk, and to the counters were marijuana is retailed. Each counter is made of glass so customers can see the various types of marijuana, edibles, and accessories being offered. The menu had 12 different types of marijuana and two different types edibles, all of which included the varying prices between Serenity members and non-members.

Despite efforts made by the marijuana community to shape dispensaries in the form of pharmacies, a lot of voters still base their decisions off culture approval. For example, if you approve of the California sex and drugs lifestyle and/or the stereotypical description of a Colorado hippie, than you’re pro legalization, and if you don’t approve, you’re anti legalization. Other voters base their decision on business and what’s best for the economy. If more money is generated from marijuana being legalized and taxed, than keep it legal, if not, ban it. You can argue that each of these voting guidelines are sufficient, but neither are as important as personal health, which should be the top priority in voting.

I presented Johnson with statistics from the 1983 Alaska 2-cent alcohol tax increase and all the positive things that ensued from it; fewer deaths, money saved etc. Then I asked, given all the positive things that ensued from it, why is an alcohol tax increase flying under the radar in such an important election? His response: “Most people don’t notice rules and laws enacted even if they’re good.”

As of now, Colorado is one of 14 states where marijuana is available to any person that has a legitimate medical issue. The problem with this is cardholders are reselling their prescription thus making marijuana more attainable, which leads to the exacerbation of it becoming more of a gateway drug. A potential solution to this problem is a stricter marijuana card application process. If a cardholder is reselling his or her prescription, then it’s clearly not a medical necessity. Marijuana is inevitably going to be used as a gateway drug, but if the card application process becomes stricter, then the gateway drug percentage would likely decrease.

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